A new biography of Martin Luther King by award-winning author and journalist Jonathan Eig, including newly-revealed materials.
by Jonathan Eig
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2022
(chez David Black Literary Agency)
Martin Luther King Jr. was the courageous and brilliant leader of the American civil rights movement, but today many know nothing about him beyond four syllables: “I have a dream.” When we turn heroes into superheroes, when we simplify the lives of great men and women in order to make their lessons easier to digest, we lose sight of their true greatness. We fail to honor them as real people with real accomplishments. Martin Luther King is fast approaching this predicament. The timing for a fresh look at his life could not be better, and the need for one is urgent: thousands of previously unseen documents have come to light, and many of King’s friends, followers, and confidants are eager to talk. Those who can give firsthand accounts are nearing the point in their lives where, if they aren’t heard soon, their stories will be lost for good. In the thirty-six years since the last full biography of King was published, a plethora of new primary documents have become available, and our understanding of King the man has fundamentally changed. The new materials include the 102 interviews with King contemporaries conducted from 2010-2016 for the National Museum of African American History and Culture; more than 100 interview transcripts from the 1987 documentary Eyes on the Prize; handwritten notes from James Baldwin; a 1964 interview with King himself taken by the poet and novelist Robert Penn Warren; as well as tens of thousands of newly released FBI documents. Some of King’s contemporaries, including Harry Belafonte and Andrew Young, have already given interviews for Jonathan Eig’s book, which will also incorporate recent research suggesting that King battled depression, drawing from thousands of newly archived personal correspondence, including letters from King to his first biographer, Lawrence Dunbar Reddick, in 1958.
Jonathan Eig is the author of five critically acclaimed books, two of them New York Times bestsellers. He was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Monsey, New York. Eig is a former staff writer for the Wall Street Journal, and he remains a contributing writer there. He has written for the New York Times, The New Yorker, Esquire, the Washington Post, and other publications. His most recent book, Ali: A Life, was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. It has also been long-listed for the Plutarch Prize for biography and the 2018 PEN/ESPN Award for literary sports writing. It was selected as one of the best books of 2017 by The Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian, and Sports Illustrated. Eig is currently working as producer on multi-part Muhammad Ali documentary. Eig is also working with Morgan Freeman and CBS Studios to develop an eight-part television series based on the life of Ali. Eig’s birth-control pill book is under option by Nat Geo for a television series, and his Lou Gehrig book is in development as a major motion picture. He lives in Chicago, IL.